Like any good RPG, Wasteland 3 has a near infinite number of ways to build your characters. From generic sneaky snipers to drunken murder hobos and killer clowns, you've got a lot that you can work with. However, it's rather undeniable that some character sheet combinations are more effective than others, which is definitely something that you want to keep in mind for higher difficulties.
The downside is that with a near infinite number of combinations to choose from, things can get overwhelming. This is where reference guides (such as this one) come in handy. Of course, the beauty of the game is that you are free to create any wild character build that you want, so it's always a good idea to experiment a bit before fully committing.
Best Wasteland 3 Backgrounds
The first decisions of consequence that you will have to make in Wasteland 3 revolves around your new characters' Backgrounds. As the name suggests, Backgrounds provide a small role-playing element for each of your Rangers. More importantly, they provide a small, passive buff to a certain stat. While this buff is rarely impactful enough to make or break a build, the effects of some Background traits can be quite potent when combined with your other stats. Alternatively, some Backgrounds can help compensate for a developing character's weaknesses, at least until you can get your hand on more Attribute points.
Explodomaniac or Disciple of the Metal - You get a flat 15% buff to explosive or fire damage, respectively. While good explosive- and fire-based weapons are somewhat hard to come by early on (to say nothing of the logistical problems when using them), they are extremely effective tools for just about every scenario.
Goat Killer - Critical hits do a hefty amount of bonus damage with a modest investment in Intelligence, so why not make it so that it's easier to land said Crits? For reference, the 5% Crit Chance bonus from Goat Killer is equivalent to 2.5 levels of Intelligence. With maxed Intelligence, Goat Killer pushes your base Crit Chance to 30%, which is definitely not something to overlook.
Sex Machine - Combat Speed measures the amount of distance that you can cover per point of AP that's spent on movement. More of it is always better, though it's hard to justify spending Attribute points on Speed when the other Attributes are so much more vital to actual character performance.
Lethal Weapon - It's Explodomaniac/Disciple of the Metal but for Melee Weapons. Granted, Lethal Weapon only gives a 10% damage buff, but it's more than fair for having no real downside. That being said, melee builds are a little finicky due to how dangerous enemies are on Supreme Jerk. Solid choice on lower difficulties though.
Vicious Avenger - The most frustrating defensive stat in Wasteland 3 is Armor, as it can fully negate any damage that is done by your Rangers. Armor Penetration is thus extremely important for Small Arms and Automatic Weapons, and more Penetration is never a bad thing. There are other ways to increase weapon Penetration though, and it's somewhat easy (though expensive) to have access to level-appropriate weapons with appropriate Penetration stats.
Raider Hater or Grease Monkey - 10% bonus damage to two of the most common enemy types in Wasteland 3, plain and simple. Raider Hater is probably the safest background choice that you can make if you can't decide on anything else.
Bookworm - 5% bonus XP is equivalent to having an extra two points in Charisma. Not the most flashy Background, but useful for those who absolutely need the levels.
Wasteland 3 Attribute Overview
When it comes to character creation in Wasteland 3, no choice is more important than how your character's Attribute points are distributed. Attributes determine everything about your character, from how fast they move to how accurately they shoot to how much HP they have. Indeed, some builds only work when you have the right Attribute distribution. While you do get bonus Attribute points when you level up, it's never enough to max out more than a couple of Attributes at a time for a single character.
Coordination - AP is incredibly important. Coordination is the only attribute that directly adds to your AP. Thus Coordination is incredibly important. Outside of buff-centric leader characters, you generally want to start with at least four Coordination per character. By the time your start reaching level 10, six Coordination per character is highly recommended.
Luck - Extra Penetration with powerful RNG effects tacked on is a rather enticing combo. Of course, this means that Luck is a bit of an all or nothing attribute, but if you can spare some attribute points near the endgame you might as well throw it into Luck. You may want to prioritize Luck on a support character though.
Awareness - Perception, chance to hit, and ranged damage all in one handy place. Absolutely essential for ranged builds, especially snipers.
Strength - More health, more melee damage, more gear options. Having four to six Strength is reasonable for all characters so that you can keep your Armor rating at a reasonable place or to take advantage of Armor buffs, but it's not 100% essential.
Speed - A bit of a niche Attribute intended for melee builds or dodge Tanks. The extra Combat Speed and Evasion can be helpful for everyone else, but you can get almost the same effect by investing in Luck or Coordination.
Intelligence - Critical hits are massive sources of damage, and is helpful for all Rangers to have. You probably don't need to rush Intelligence right away, but having a high critical chance is vital once you more or less cement your build.
Charisma - Mostly useful for Leader or Skill centric characters due to the XP buffs. Somewhat pointless for everyone else unless you want them to reach max level much more quickly.
Best Wasteland 3 Quirks
If Attributes determine how effective your characters are in battle, then Quirks determine just how far you can push your build. Every Wasteland 3 Quirk offers a substantial bonus at the cost of potentially crippling your character in another area. You can't change your Quirk afterwards either, so it's definitely a good idea to fully consider the potential ramifications of any potential Quirk pick. That being said, some Quirks are powerful enough that you can create entire builds around their effects.
Circus Freak - Aside from making your character look like a clown, Circus Freak has surprisingly negligible downsides. You're basically getting four free points of Speed at the cost of looking silly. The Crit resistance is just icing on the cake.
Prospector - As far as Quirks go, Prospector is the most inoffensive of the bunch. You lose one Quick Slot, which is where you equip grenades and consumables, but you'll gain a tiny, tiny chance to become filthy rich. Worth considering if you can't decide on choosing any other Quirk.
Medical Marvel - An extra five health per level up is the equivalent to just under four free Strength points. Of course, this also means that to reap the maximum rewards from this Quirk, you'll have to actually level the character up.
Sadomasochist - Want to create a glass cannon Wasteland 3 character? Then look no further than the Sadomasochist quirk, which gives a 33% melee and ranged damage buff in exchange for taking 33% extra damage. Practically a must have for snipers.
Serial Killer - Getting 3 AP for the first kill that a character makes per turn is absolutely nutty for Automatic Weapons and Small Arms users. This often translates to getting an extra shot, or a chance to move into cover after killing something. True, permanently losing one AP is annoying. but this Quirk is the only way you can make a "kill chain" kind of character. Note that the Automatic Weapons Skill branch also has a Perk that grants a similar effect, but without making you lose one AP.
Waste Roamer - Giving up 15% of your XP gains sounds horrific, but you're getting an immunity to all of the elemental effects that would otherwise ignore armor. For leader characters, the XP loss is made up for by high Charisma, which in turn opens up the possibility of Tank leader builds.
Way of the Squeezins - A fun and flavorful Quirk for those who want to roleplay as a Wasteland 3 murder hobo. Not exactly helpful otherwise.
Understanding how your character's innate stats work is key to determining the kind of build that is right for them. Think of the Background, Attribute, and Quirk selections as the foundations of a house. Without the right foundation, your Skills might have little to no ground to stand on. The right foundation though can help propel a build from simply being viable to borderline game breaking.